Horror in Domodedovo airport: the aftermath

I was totally speechless and incredibly upset after the first news appearedfrom the Moscow airport Domodedovo on Monday. Domodedovo is the best airport in the country and I still cannot believe that it happened for real. I was even more shocked after the strange reaction of Russian officials and failure of the conventional media to cover the incident: people got to know about it through Twitter.

So far I’ve read a lot of articles and opinion pieces about what happened: some people blame the government for weak security measures; others blame foreigners for coming into country and setting their rules. The whole picture looks scary and messy now: no one really knows how to react on this again. Terrorist attacks are not something new for Russia and still the government has no idea how to react and what to do.

This tragedy highlighted the underlying problems in Russian society and the government. Some witnesses and the media informed that taxi drivers in the airport rocketed the prices up to 500 EUR. Later on the mayor of Moscow said [RUS] that this situation should not happen again and there should be an agreement with the taxi services in emergency situations. However the prominent photo blogger Ilya Varlamov informed [RUS]that the taxi drivers did not increase the price; it was all rumors. He spoke to some of them in the airport and they were asking for 1500 – 2000 rubles [approximately 50 eur]. Besides that the express train from the airport was offering its services for free that day.

Political activists from pro-Kremlin youth movement NASHI were offering their help to give a ride to the metro. Later on there was a twofold perception of it: some people called them opportunists, others simply appreciated their help.

First reports about the attack appeared on Twitter and the media was picking up the tweets thus making news out of them. Twitter played a crucial role in the coverage if the event and became an incredible source of information indicating the failure of the TV to cover the story.

Moscow news portal The Village even uploaded [RUS] a report based together on official information and tweets from different users. Twitter became the most powerful news source and the role of TV was diminished. The explosion happened at 4.32 pm, a TV channel Russia 24 interrupted their broadcast with breaking news only at 5.24: almost an hour later. However it did not provide any particular information about the attack, but simply informed that there were victims.

The same photo blogger Varlamov does not see Twitter as a substitute for the traditional media. He points out [RUS] that “there were a lot of lies, rumors and unverified facts. The media cannot go on air with the dubious information that is why the images are not that bright as in blogs and Twitter.” Therefore he believes that it was a mistaken impression of Twitter taking over the media and media lying about the real state of events. Twitter lied as well; there were messages of collapsed walls and ceiling.

Newspaper Izvestia informs [RUS] that while the First and Second TV channels were showing soap operas, the microblog likhtenfeld on Twitter became the vital source of information on-the-spot. The businessman Ilya Likhtenfeld who owns a café in Domodedovo was tweeting from the ariport providing the updates as well as some shocking images from the place, the ones you will never see on TV. This “netizen” was not really popular before the attack; the information he provided was up-to-date thus making his voice being heard. He also informed that there were approximately 70 people dead while official sources confirmed only 35 victims. This information resulted in negative attitude of “netizens” towards the government lying about the real situation with the victims. And people still do not believe what officials say.

After the attack people blamed the government for inefficient anti-terror measures and weak security control in airports. Indeed no one checks your bags when you enter the airport, that is why the suicide bomber entered the building easily. I remember the security control in Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv: not only you cannot enter the building without the security control but also Israelis ask you million questions about your destination and the purpose of your stay in Israel when you arrive and depart from Israel as well. El Al airlines do this even abroad. In the departure area here in Hungary the El Al staff interrogates you regarding the purpose of your stay in Hungary, the place where you stayed; they even ask if someone had an access to your bags while you were away. This might seem a bit sick, but probably it works.

In the meantime security measures in airports around the world also lack some essential control. As Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic claims that “Airport security in America is a sham—“security theater” designed to make travelers feel better and catch stupid terrorists. Smart ones can get through security with fake boarding passes and all manner of prohibited items…” He performed various experiments and carried different prohibited things through security control in different airports in the US. Precisely he carried liquids in his beer belly, Hezbollah videotapes and flag in his carry-on bag when the luggage was searched, and other suspicious things. These things did not get confiscated. He even counterfeited boarding passes in order to show that the no-fly lists are a sham. His findings are astonishing. One might say that he did not carry a bomb. Indeed he did not, but he clearly indicated the failure of all security measures in the airport to provide security. It is all a myth.

So now in Domodedovo airport they will find a scapegoat who was supposed to check the people at the entrance and did not do so. Will it change the situation? Will it bring the desired security? In this regard the statements by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev look ridiculous. He promised to find those who organized the attack and that they “would be tracked down and punished.” HOW????? They still did not find those who organized terrorist attacks on the school in Beslan, on Nord-Ost in Moscow. So what is changed now? In November Medvedev promised to find the attackers of journalist Oleg Kashin and still there is no progress. The whole situation clearly indicates the failure of security services in Russia and the fact that the leaders are dealing with the consequences of the attacks not the causes. Finding a scapegoat is never a solution for that.

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